County fair is full of evocative sights, sounds, smells


August 12, 1999|By Diane Mikulis | Diane Mikulis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IT'S FAIR TIME again, and for many of us that means spending an evening or two at the Howard County Fairgrounds, letting all our senses absorb the sights, sounds and smells.

We see animals, big and small, perfect produce and crafts, brightly lighted rides and colorful refreshment stands. Pigs are snorting, sheep and goats are bleating, and cattle are lowing.

Children scream on the rides and whine on the walkways.

The smells of a multitude of foods -- cotton candy, clam strips, crab cakes and sausages -- can be overwhelming.

Walking through the livestock barns, well, that's another story.

Certainly, we can't leave without having a taste of fried dough, french fries or corn dogs. On the way to the car, the kids insist on going into the petting zoo to stroke the rabbits, baby chicks and llamas.

It's a great time for young and old. But, for many county residents, especially those in our area, the fair experience lasts more than a day or even a week.

The exhibitors, children and adults, spend months and sometimes years preparing their entries.

There are dozens of categories for competition, and many have multiple classes. Some of the contests are open, which means anyone can enter; others are for 4-H members only.

One 4-H member kept busy this week by entering livestock in the Swine Showmanship Contest, the Market Swine Show and the Beef Steer Show.

Twelve-year-old Amanda Arrington raises pigs and cows on her family's farm in Marriottsville. She's a member of the Howard County 4-H Beef Club. This is her fourth year in the county fair.

Amanda started her county fair career with a bang in 1996, when the first pig she raised was selected grand champion. The next year, she raised and entered a steer.

This year, Amanda brought four swine and two beef cattle to the fair.

Monday evening, two of her pigs won Grand Champion Market Pig Pair. She entered two other pigs, each in its weight class. One was 236 pounds; the other, 225.

Amanda and her mother, Judy, said they were excited about the results. Amanda's friend Jordan Garner, 12, also of Marriottsville, accompanied her all evening and shared in the excitement.

Amanda says she feeds her animals every morning and evening, and exercises them daily.

At Tuesday's Beef Steer Show, Amanda's steer proved hard to handle in the ring. The heavy animal was determined to leave the ring.

"He gave me a hard time," Amanda said. She and her steer placed fifth, and Amanda was glad she was able to keep him in the ring.

While she likes raising both types of animals, Amanda says, she enjoys the pigs more.

"They're easier. I like showing them, because there's not as much pressure," she said, referring to the difficulty in handling cattle.

Amanda, according to her mother, is outgoing, and being in 4-H provides a social and educational experience.

"They get to know each other," Judy said. "It's such a warm group, and the friendships are important."

One unpleasant aspect of the competition is that not all of the animals will go home with Amanda. She plans to sell one pig and the steer for meat.

One of the other pigs will go with her to the State Fair in Timonium.

Though she originally found it disturbing to give up animals that have become like pets to her, Amanda says, she views the work as a market project. The proceeds from the sales fund her work and pay for new pigs and calves.

Amanda pays all the costs associated with raising and showing the animals.

Another western Howard resident who has been busy at the fair this week is Mariella Proia, the 1999 Farm Queen.

The Farm Queen Contest was held Sunday, and all five contestants participated in interviews, gave speeches and were tested on their skill in extemporaneous speaking by answering questions about agriculture. The questions, randomly pulled from a bowl, were called "fishbowl questions."

"It was a big surprise," Mariella said of her victory.

The 17-year-old lives on her family's 10-acre farm in Clarksville. She has raised horses, chickens, ducks and goats.

A 4-H member since age 6, she is president of the Big H 4-H Club.

Mariella is a senior at River Hill High School, where she is captain of the tennis team and a member of the National Honor Society and other organizations.

Her duties this week include presiding over awards ceremonies and parades and handing out ribbons, which she did during the swine show -- giving a ribbon to Amanda.

Sharing some of the responsibilities of Farm Queen is Jamie Bullock, the first runner-up. Jamie, 18, will attend East Carolina University to pursue a degree in mathematics.

She lives in West Friendship with her family and 14 rabbits and 12 lambs that she shows.

Jamie graduated from Glenelg High School in June. She played on the school's volleyball team for four years.

The fair runs through Saturday. Events such as the Parade of Floats, the Baby Contest and several horse shows are planned.

The fairgrounds are off Route 144, west of Route 32. Hours are 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., and parking is free.

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